Mentor shift: When the student becomes the expert operator

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C'erra Rhodes recently led students through a course in soldering, which she learned to do at Computers4Kids. Photo: Elli Williams C'erra Rhodes recently led students through a course in soldering, which she learned to do at Computers4Kids. Photo: Elli Williams

Most kids use their Wii remotes to race cars or battle bad guys while playing games on their TV. C’erra Rhodes uses hers to teach other middle school-age girls how to solder metal. The 13-year-old created a “Wiimote” as a project through Computers4Kids in Charlottesville, an organization that teaches tech skills to middle and high school students. Rhodes, a seventh grader at Buford, hopes to teach elementary school, and her tech project proved a perfect opportunity for her first lesson.

She and her mentor took an ordinary pen and added an LED and Bluetooth adapter to it, turning it into a tool to interact with a whiteboard or a tablet. The project required soldering, a skill new to Rhodes. She figured while she was learning it, she could teach her friends.

“I was excited because it was my first time teaching a class,” she said. And having her friends as students? “Most of them have never heard of this, so I felt good teaching them a trait while they’re working on making it.”

Rhodes showed the students how to solder a robot-shaped pin with blinking lights that they could wear after the class to show off their soldering skills. She said the hardest part of soldering was gauging the amount of metal needed.

“Sometimes it makes a really big bubble and it can be really hot,” she cautioned. She said her C4K mentor, Courtney, inspired her. “She’s funny and cool and she’s teaching me a lot of things I never liked before.” Rhodes said she’d like to sign up for C4K again next year because she’s learned so much about technology. Meanwhile, she wasn’t waiting for a classroom to share her knowledge. “I teach my mom about the computer at home.”

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